MANILA, Philippines – The US Defense Department has awarded a $1.8- million contract to the Kentucky-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments Inc. for the purchase of modern weapons systems to be installed in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16), the second high-endurance cutter that the Philippines recently acquired from the United States.
The Philippine embassy in Washington reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the purchase and installation of two Mk38 Mod 2 auto-canon systems for the Alcaraz is part of a $24-million contract the Pentagon awarded to the firm.
Capt. Elson Aguilar, Naval Attaché at the Philippine embassy, said the BAE contract involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.
Aguilar said the contract is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program and does not include the weapons system for the sister ship of the Alcaraz, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF15), covered under a separate contract.
The Mk38 Mod 2, commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.
The new weapons systems are upgraded versions of the Mk38 M242 Bushmasters that were removed from the vessel prior to its turnover to the Philippines.
The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.
“The Mk38 Mod 2 will allow the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire,” Aguilar said, adding that the auto-canon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.
He said the two Mk38 Mod 2 systems to be mounted in the Alcaraz and Del Pilar will complement its existing weapons systems that consist of the MK75 76mm Oto Melara main battery and four M2HB .50 caliber machine guns.
Aguilar said the vessel is presently awaiting the general overhaul of a port main diesel engine and further installation of navigational and electronics equipment.
“The overhaul will take at least 11 weeks once it gets started,” he said, adding that the vessel’s 14 officers and 74 enlisted personnel headed by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino continue to train under the US Coast Guard at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina where the vessel is currently moored.
The 378-foot-long Alcaraz was commissioned in 1968 and served with the US Coast Guard as the USCGC Dallas until it was decommissioned and turned over to the Philippines in May.
It is being refurbished and refitted at a cost of $15.15 million.
The Alcaraz is the second Hamilton-class cutter that was acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program. The first, the Del Pilar, was turned over to the Philippine Navy in May 2011.
Aguilar said that both the Alcaraz and Del Pilar are capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time and withstanding heavy weather and rough sea conditions.
The Alcaraz was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer during the Pacific War whose patrol boat shot down three Japanese aircraft. Source: Philstar.com
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